Day 14 of Teaching Kids to Serve
One day when I was in 8th grade, I was sitting in my English class discussing a story about a family who had abandoned their elderly grandfather. The conversation came around to the lack of respect in contemporary America for the elderly.
For some reason this conversation bothered me deeply. I kept thinking of old people abandoned and ignored by their families. I was so upset I decided to start visit nursing homes.
With my mom's help, I connected with the activities manager of one of our local nursing homes. She introduced me to several elderly ladies who did not receive visitors, and I began going to see them every week.
After a while I got in touch with the animal shelter, who allowed me to pick up a kitten or puppy once a month or so to bring it along. Oh how the residents loved this!
Young people, young animals... they bring joy into a nursing home that is palpable. Many residents are old in body but young in mind, and they feel free to let down their guard and enjoy themselves when they have youth nearby.
Before you go to a nursing home, let your children know what they might expect. Explain that most of the people who live in a nursing home have bodies that aren't working as well as they used to, so they need some help. You can also tell them that some of them have a sickness that has made their thinking a little different.
When you are there, it is important that you help your child balance discomfort with serving. Don't push your child to reach out, but encourage him to. You may have a child who feels quite awkward and overwhelmed. Be engaged with the residents yourself and set a good example. Over time your child's reluctance will wear off.
There are many things you can have your children do while visiting:
- play an instrument
- read aloud
- play board games or cards with the residents
- make crafts with the residents
- hand out cards or decorations
But really all they need to do is be themselves. Just taking time to talk and ask questions can make someone's day!